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What’s Going On in This Graph? | “Tripledemic”

What do you notice and wonder about the intensity, peak and duration of respiratory illnesses in the U.S.?

This graph shows the prior and current trends in the United States for respiratory illness — including Covid, flu and R.S.V. (respiratory syncytial virus). R.S.V. is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. For the 2022-23 season, the most recent week of data included in the graph ends on Nov. 26.

Every season of respiratory sickness is different. How will this year’s season compare?

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, we will moderate your responses live online. By Friday morning, Jan. 13, we will provide the “Reveal” — the graph’s free online link, additional questions, shout outs for student headlines and Stat Nuggets.

1. After looking closely at the map above (or at this full-size image), answer these four questions:

  • What do you notice? If your notice makes a claim, where in the graph is the evidence to support it?

  • What do you wonder?

  • How does this relate to you and your community?

  • What’s going on in this graph? Create a catchy headline that captures the graph’s main idea.

The questions are intended to build on one another, so try to answer them in order.

2. Next, join the conversation online by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box. (Teachers of students younger than 13 are welcome to post their students’ responses.)

3. Below the response box, there is an option to click on “Email me when my comment is published.” This sends the link to your response which you can share with your teacher.

4. After you have posted, read what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting a comment. Use the “Reply” button to address that student directly.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, teachers from our collaborator, the American Statistical Association, will facilitate this discussion from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time.

5. By Friday morning, Jan. 13, we will reveal more information about the graph, including a free link to the article that includes this graph, at the bottom of this post. We encourage you to post additional comments based on the article, possibly using statistical terms defined in the Stat Nuggets.


Have you noticed that more people have been sneezing, coughing and just plain sick this winter? In December The Times reported about how a “tripledemic” of Covid-19, flu and R.S.V. has been straining an already weary health care system. “After two difficult Covid winters, the current season of respiratory sickness in the United States already rivals some of the worst cold and flu seasons on record — and it started about two months early.”

Here are some student headlines that captured the main idea of the graph: “Don’t Breathe Easy Yet: Respiratory Illnesses Peak Early, Reach Record Levels” by Noah of Granby, Conn.; “Breathtaking Record Highs of Reported Respiratory Illnesses!” by Grayson of McCall, Idaho; “One Cough, Several Hospital Visits – Respiratory Illnesses Takes Its Peak” by Grace of Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey and “Not Again … Spike in Respiratory Illnesses” by Mika of Vallejo, Calif.

You may want to think about these additional questions:

  • Describe the variability (see Stat Nugget below) of respiratory illness within an October through July season. Then, compare the four October through July seasons from year-to-year. You may want to use the prepandemic average as a basis of comparison. What surprises you about the variability in illness?

    Notice the dip in the percent of respiratory visits in early January in the prepandemic average. What theories do you have to explain this trend?

  • The C.D.C. created a list of symptoms for colds, flu, Covid and R.S.V., and The New York Times turned the list into an interactive chart which allows you to mark your symptoms and then sort by selecting an illness. Go to the Times interactive version to find out “Do You Have Covid, Flu or R.S.V.?”

  • To see the most recent weekly graphs on respiratory illness, go to the C.D.C. National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) index and the Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report. There, you will find graphs and maps which show the most recent illness trends for the country, regions and states.

Keep noticing and wondering. We continue to welcome your online responses.

We’ll host live moderation for our next graph, which focuses on college learning, on Wednesday, Jan. 18. By subscribing to the Learning Network newsletter here, you can receive notices of the “What’s Going On in This Graph?” releases on Fridays preceding Wednesday’s moderation. In the meantime, keep noticing and wondering.

Stat Nuggets for “Just How Bad Is the ‘Tripledemic’?”

Below, we define mathematical and statistical terms and how they relate to this graph. To see the archives of all Stat Nuggets with links to their graphs, go to this index.


A time series graph shows how a quantitative variable changes over time with consecutive values connected by a line.

In the Tripledemic graph, the quantitative variable is the percent of U.S. doctor and hospital visits that were for respiratory illness, by week. The five lines are for the months October through July for the years 2019 – 2020, 2020 – 2021, 2021 – 2022, the prepandemic average and for October to November 2022.


Variability describes the degree to which values in a quantitative dataset tend to vary from the average, or more generally, from each other. Variability can be represented by such measures as standard deviation, range or interquartile range.

In the Tripledemic graph, variability can be analyzed in several ways. Before this season, 2019 – 2020 seems to have the greatest variability as compared to the prepandemic average. It has a period of about one month with a high of 7 percent of visits for respiratory illness and a relatively sudden early decline to about 1 percent in April. The other years did not reach 7 percent and settled down to 1 percent later than April. However, the 2022 – 2023 season is exceeding 7 percent already, so we can expect more variability in incidence of visits this year. Doctors predict that the season will be longer than average and may go beyond April.

The graph for “What’s Going On in This Graph?” is selected in partnership with Sharon Hessney. Ms. Hessney wrote the “reveal” and Stat Nuggets with Erica Chauvet, a mathematics professor at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, and moderates online with Rachael Gorsuch, a mathematics and statistics teacher at Columbus Academy in Ohio.


• See all graphs in this series or collections of 60 of our favorite graphs, 28 graphs that teach about inequality and 24 graphs about climate change.

• View our archives that link to all past releases, organized by topic, graph type and Stat Nugget.

• Learn more about the notice and wonder teaching strategy from this 5-minute video and how and why other teachers are using this strategy from our on-demand webinar.

• Sign up for our free weekly Learning Network newsletter so you never miss a graph. Graphs are always released by the Friday before the Wednesday live-moderation to give teachers time to plan ahead.

• Go to the American Statistical Association K-12 website, which includes teacher statistics resources, Census in the Schools student-generated data, professional development opportunities, and more.

Students 13 and older in the United States and the Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

You are watching: What’s Going On in This Graph? | “Tripledemic”. Info created by GBee English Center selection and synthesis along with other related topics.